MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U.COM GAME OF THE WEEK (Feb. 17–24)
WIAA DIVISION 5 BOYS BASKETBALL: Shullsburg 71, Benton 34
SHULLSBURG — After struggling on offense in their playoff opener the night before, top-seeded Shullsburg fired back up its balanced scoring attack and rolled over the #2-seeded Benton Zephyrs, 71-34, in a WIAA Division 5 regional championship boys’ basketball game held at SHS on Saturday, Feb. 20.
The Miners (12-8 overall) used a 24-7 scoring burst at the end of the first half to build up a 38-18 halftime lead, and maintained their comfortable advantage throughout the second half to run away from the Zephyrs (9-9) and capture the regional championship title for the third time over the past five seasons.
“It has been a crazy year. Just to be here playing another day is special. These guys are so happy to be regional champs and the seniors are excited to get to play at least one more game with their teammates,” said Shullsburg head coach Luke Tyson. “We had a bit of a roller-coaster start to the season. I think these guys figured out that they might not get many more chances to get going. They have come to buy into that aspect of a good basketball team. They are a great group of guys. Their work ethic and leadership we got from the seniors has propelled us to sectionals. It’s just a great feeling all around. I’m so happy for these guys, and I’m proud of them.”
Shullsburg received the #4-seed in their sectional grouping and will travel to Monticello to face #1-seeded and #2-ranked Ponies (16-3) in a sectional semifinal game on Thursday, Feb. 25, starting at 7 p.m.
Thursday’s winner moves on to face the winner of the other semifinal between #2-seeded and #1-ranked Hustisford (14-3) and #3-seeded and #8-ranked Stockbridge (21-3) at the home of the highest remaining seed on Saturday at a time to be announced.
On Saturday, the Miners scored eight unanswered points early on to open up a 14-6 lead on the Zephyrs.
Senior Dominick Cummins ended a seven-minute scoring drought by converting a rare four-point play to slice the deficit in half, and a free throw by sophomore Nate Lawrence less than a minute later brought Benton back within three at 14-11 with 7:16 remaining in the first half.
Senior Chandler Kelly scored six straight points during another 8-0 burst by the Miners, and then 3-pointers by senior Brendan Kudronowicz (two) and freshman Heath Poppy (one) and six straight points by junior Kaile Scott to end the half put the hosts ahead 38-18 at the intermission.
“We prioritized defense coming into the game. Benton is a great team with great shooters, so to hold them to 18 points in the first half and 34 for the game, was something special for our guys. It sure helped to make our shots as well,” admitted Tyson.
Benton never got closer than 19 points in the second half as Kudronowicz (10 points) along with Kelly and senior Niko Karavergos (six each) teamed up to keep the Zephyrs at bay.
Kudronowicz sank four 3s on his way to a game-high 18 points. Kelly matched him with 18, while Scott had nine and Karavergos and fellow senior Brandon Hoppman added eight apiece for the Miners.
Cummins finished with 12 points. Sophomores Chad Haffele and Rex Blaine scored 10 and nine, respectively, for the Zephyrs, who had their season come to an end at the hands of the Miners for the sixth time over the past seven years.
At Shullsburg, on Friday, Feb. 19, the Miners broke off on a 12-0 run early in the game to pull ahead of Belmont to stay, but needed a late 9-0 run to put the game away as they advanced on in the tournament with a 45-35 win over the #4-seeded Braves (4-18).
Brandon Hoppman scored 11 of his team-high 17 points in the second half to keep the Miners in front of the Braves. Chandler Kelly and Kaile Scott added six points apiece in the second half to help seal the victory. Kelly finished with 11 points for the hosts.
WIAA D5 REGIONAL FINAL
Benton…….... 18 16 – 34
Shullsburg… 38 33 – 71
Benton – Chad Haffele 10, Nate Lawrence 1, Nick Brant 2, Dominick Cummins 12, Rex Blaine 9. Totals – 14 5-9 34.
Shullsburg– Brendan Kudronowicz 18, Nate Heller 3, Heath Poppy 5, Chandler Kelly 18, Brandon Hoppman 8, Niko Karavergos 8, Luke Unbehaun 2, Kaile Scott 9. Totals – 31 3-9 71.
3-point goals– B 1 (Cummins 1), S 6 (Kudronowicz 4, Heller 1, Poppy 1). Total fouls– B 10, S 15. Fouled out– None.